“Life is like a jar of marbles. You always know what you’re gonna get.”
Years ago, I never thought I would write a text that started with paraphrasing Forrest Gump. But recently, I’ve come to the conclusion that calculating the number of marbles in a jar by dividing random guesses from a fixed number of people equals some kind of truth in most cases. It’s like chaos and order merging into the median of answers.
Currently, I’m listening to an audiobook called “Den Osannolike Mördaren” (“The Unlikely Murderer”) by Thomas Pettersson, an investigative book delving into the theory of who killed Olof Palme. The author, a journalist, has gone back to the first witness reports and logically concluded that Stig Engström, an “office rat” in a nearby building, assassinated the prime minister in 1986. Engström got away with it because he was so unlikely, yet in many ways, very likely. It’s a fascinating read, and I believe Pettersson is onto something here.
In the book, he compares the descriptions of the killer provided by the witnesses, among other things. While most descriptions differ in some way, the overall conclusion, considering factors like the lengths of the jacket, body shape, and headgear, points to only one person: Stig Engström. Let’s say you drew the killer based on each report and added them together like “+ X + X + X + X + X / 5 = 1.” This would result in a fitting depiction of the suspect.
Let’s envision reality as a jar of marbles, where each marble represents a hypothesis (and sometimes a theory — and of course, more than that). These hypotheses include all the crazy, outside-the-box ideas put forth by everyone from certified scientists to fringe journalists and tin foil hats. Yes, all of them. By combining their ideas and finding the median in their proposed concepts, we can approach the truth. It’s a risky game, as nobody wants to be proven wrong. But if everyone momentarily sets aside their egos, we could discover some fascinating answers.
Life is like a jar of marbles. You always know what you’re gonna get. The truth may be less dramatic, lacking edge and blame, but it’s often the closest we’ll come to reality. Personally, I don’t take sides when it comes to conspiracy theories or philosophies. I absorb what I need, work with it, and arrive at my own conclusions. Everything I’ve read, heard, and watched coalesces into a somewhat unremarkable, middle-of-the-road answer, incorporating a bit of this and a bit of that, far from the extremes — yet never truly boring.
I approach predicting my own life and career in the same manner. I rely on my collected knowledge, wisdom, and experience, running them through the calculator in my mind. The result often aligns with my predictions. By now, I can anticipate what will fail and what will succeed, which may make me somewhat predictable. Occasionally, I take a chance, and the outcome may or may not align with my expectations. Regardless, I add it to my wisdom and employ it for future predictions. This approach extends to my work with chaos magic, where I assess the ratio of realistic approaches to the less realistic ones to determine the potential outcome.
Reality is a jar filled with the philosophy of marbles, varying in size and color. Let’s count them and see what we get!
Fred Andersson is a Swedish story producer, researcher and writer with over twenty years of experience in commercial television and the author of four books. He lives in Märsta, outside Stockholm, with his photographer husband Grzegorz and two overly active cats. Join him on Twitter and Instagram.